University of Arkansas Taps Epic EHR to Enhance Interoperability

All nine University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences clinical locations intend to get an interoperability boost on the Epic EHR platform.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Regional Campuses have implemented Epic EHR to boost interoperability across its nine clinical locations.

For the last eight years, UAMS Medical Center has utilized Epic EHR. However, its nine regional campuses were on separate EHR platforms and that disrupted patient data exchange for more than 65,000 patients.

Increased interoperability between Epic customers was a major reason for the implementation, leaders at UAMS said. A patient who gets treated at one hospital within UAMS health system can easily make her health records available to a separate hospital in the health system, or a separate hospital out of the health system that also uses Epic software.

“We have been planning for this conversion for several years, and we are pleased to be able to stay on schedule despite the challenges of COVID-19,” Michael Greer, UAMS chief information officer, said in a statement.

Although the implementation occurred during the first and second waves of COVID-19, roughly 60 physicians, 150 residents, and over 3000 clinical employees trained on the new EHR system.

“It is important for our care providers not only to be well versed in the health care sciences, but also to be adept users of modern clinical technology such as electronic medical records. This assures that our patients get the best outcomes,” said David A. Nelsen Jr, MD, UAMS associate chief clinical information officer.

The nine regional clinical campuses adopting the new EHR suite include Helena, Pine Bluff, Fayetteville, Springdale, Batesville, Jonesboro, Texarkana, Magnolia, and Fort Smith.

“This conversion took a tremendous amount of coordination and hard work across a number of different teams, many of whom often work without much recognition or spotlight,” said Cam Patterson, MD, UAMS chancellor and CEO of UAMS Health.

“That includes our IT department and the Clinical Informatics team, our various trainers, project leaders and the leadership in teams in nursing, billing and scheduling. Of course, it also includes all our Regional Campus employees.”

The health system said the implementation should boost patient care, employee productivity, and health system revenue.

Furthermore, UAMS patients will be able to access the MyChart patient portal. Patients can utilize their mobile phone or computer to schedule appointments, place orders for prescription refills, communicate with providers, and view both health history and lab results.

“The conversion to Epic is an important step in our continuing drive to advance the health and health care of all Arkansans,” Patterson concluded.

Epic Systems is the first EHR vendor to make real progress toward universal patient data sharing and interoperability, according to a recent KLAS report.

In the report, KLAS interviewed over 200 healthcare organizations to gain an insight into how their respective vendors guided them toward EHR interoperability.

“While all vendors have room to improve, some have proven more willing to work with other EMR vendors, have been more successful in enabling record exchange that impacts patient care, and have done better at providing and supporting meaningful API connections,” wrote KLAS.

Almost all Epic users reported access to outside data and nearly two-thirds achieved “deep interoperability.” However, its most progressive customers want the vendor to increase its use of APIs.

“Records from exchange partners are presented fairly automatically, allowing clinicians to make better use of data at the point of care,” wrote KLAS. “This success is tied to satisfaction improvements with outside-record sharing and increased participation in Carequality, as well as Epic’s proactive approach to progressing interoperability. Both Epic and nonEpic customers feel the vendor’s commitment to outside sharing has grown.”

Epic users may want increased API use, but the vendor is reluctant to partner with health IT developers to connect to APIs. Epic is not currently focusing on APIs, KLAS reported, and while the vendor will help its customers in that area, it is not taking a proactive approach on its own.

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